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75 Books Challenge for 2015

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Edited: Mar 5, 2015, 11:49pm Top

Penelope Lively

Dec 30, 2014, 2:19am Top

Kazuo Ishiguro

Edited: Jan 1, 2015, 2:25am Top

Lively Books read or intended :
The Photograph - PaulCranswick, Ameise1
How It All Began - PaulCranswick
Moon Tiger - BekkaJo, Oregonreader, evilmoose, kiwiflowa, kidzdoc, Morphidae, jll1976, jolerie, Smiler69, LoisB, Chatterbox, souloftherose, Crazymamie
Dancing Fish and Ammonites - maggie1944, SandDune, Helenliz
In Search of a Homeland - countrylife, cbl_tn
A Stitch in Time - DeltaQueen50
The Ghost of Thomas Kempe - amanda4242
Consequences - Fourpawz2, jennyifer24
Pack of Cards - ipsoivan
Cleopatra's Sister - katiekrug

Edited: Jan 1, 2015, 2:31am Top

Ishiguro Books read or intended :
A Pale View of Hills - PaulCranswick, evilmoose, AnneDC, Chatterbox, SandDune
An Artist of the Floating World - PaulCranswick, Morphidae, Fourpawz2
The Remains of the Day - roundballnz, countrylife, scaifea, amanda4242, majkia, jolerie, Smiler69, ipsoivan
The Unconsoled - BekkaJo,
Never Let Me Go - jnwelch, kidzdoc, Crazymamie, katiekrug
When We Were Orphans - kiwiflowa, Carmenere, drachenbraut23
Nocturnes - Ameise1, jll1976, Helenliz, Cbl_tn

(I will update regularly to see which books prove to be the most popular)

Dec 30, 2014, 5:21am Top

I'm intending to read Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively. Not sure if I will also manage something by Ishiguro - if I do I will either reread The Remains of the Day or read A Pale View of Hills.

Dec 30, 2014, 5:43am Top

I am going to aim to do one per month, hopefully picking the author I have read least of. In this case I had bought Ammonites and Dancing Fish late last year, so put that on hold until now, not having read any of her work. I've read several by Ishiguro (although only the obvious ones) but I found Nocturnes on audio in the library, so have nabbed that as well.

Edited: Dec 30, 2014, 7:19am Top

Well, I have The Photograph and Moon Tiger to choose from in the Lively field and I intend to listen to When we were Orphans by Ishiguro. I may reread A Pale View of Hills or An Artist of the Floating World which were one of my first English books I read when I came to London in 1996 - so definitely time for another go :)

Dec 30, 2014, 7:17am Top

I'm planning to finally get to Remains of the Day . For some reason that is one of those books that I keep intending to read but never quite get to.

Not sure on Lively yet.

Dec 30, 2014, 7:44am Top

I'm first in the hold queue for the audio of Nocturnes by Ishiguro.

Edited: Dec 31, 2014, 1:15pm Top

I just read How It All Began recently--bad timing on my part. I'll be finishing Pack of Cards and re-read Remains of the Day. Bliss.

Edited: Dec 30, 2014, 8:34am Top

I picked up Consequences from the library last night. And I read a few pages. Yup, I'm cheating. But it is practically January so I don't feel too guilty.

Dec 30, 2014, 10:06am Top

I'll be reading Moon Tiger and Never Let Me Go.

Dec 30, 2014, 10:42am Top

>10 ipsoivan: You mean Pack of Cards by Lively right, Maggie?

Dec 30, 2014, 11:17am Top

I'm going to join Fourpawz2 and read Consequences. Ishiguro's books are all checked out right now from the library, but I'm hoping to track down The Remains of the Day.

Dec 30, 2014, 11:38am Top

I'll be listening to Never Let Me Go on audio and reading Cleopatra's Sister.

I have about 10 Lively books on my shelves, so decided to go with the one that has been there longest... I've had Cleopatra's Sister on shelf since 2004!

Dec 30, 2014, 12:03pm Top

As usual, I can't decide. I've got Moon Tiger and Consequences and 5 Ishiguro's, on the shelves.

Edited: Dec 31, 2014, 2:12pm Top

I started today listening Nocturnes and finished the first story Crooner. I liked this short story very much. It's poignant and full of love. The second story Come Rain or Shine I'm half way through. It's a different story to the first one but there are many similarities. So far I love this audiobook very much.

Tomorrow, I'll start reading The Photograph. I'm looking forward to it.

Dec 30, 2014, 3:04pm Top

Hi Paul - I changed my book choice for Ishiguro and will be reading An Artist of the Floating World.

Edited: Dec 30, 2014, 3:18pm Top

Dec 30, 2014, 3:20pm Top

I'm going to participate as long as I have something I can read that I already own. For January, that means I will join in reading Never Let Me Go. It's been on my shelves now for over 4 years so I'm happy to have a nudge to actually get to it.

For those of you reading The Remains of the Day, you have a real treat to look forward to. I had it sitting on my shelves for almost 20 years. It ended up being the first TIOLI book I ever read and I was so grateful for the occasion to read it. It instantly became one of my favorite books ever.

Dec 30, 2014, 4:55pm Top

>20 phebj: Woop woop! Good to see you're joining in, Pat!

Dec 30, 2014, 6:07pm Top

>14 jennyifer24: - hey Jennyifer - we'll be reading the same exact books for January.

Dec 30, 2014, 7:27pm Top

Dec 30, 2014, 11:49pm Top

Everyone might be interested in this piece posted on The Guardian today: http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/dec/30/january-reading-group-kaz...

Dec 31, 2014, 12:39am Top

Due to sourcing issues, I've had to switch my Lively book to The Ghost of Thomas Kempe - so I'm no longer part of the Moon Tiger gang!

Edited: Dec 31, 2014, 9:43am Top

My goal this year is to read books I already own and The Remains of the Day fits right in so I'll be reading that.

Dec 31, 2014, 1:15pm Top

>13 PaulCranswick: Oops, sorry, Paul. Yes I did mean Pack of Cards, Lively's short stories. I went back and corrected my post.

Dec 31, 2014, 1:33pm Top

>22 Fourpawz2: We'll have to compare notes! I haven't read either author before.

Dec 31, 2014, 2:10pm Top

I've changed my mind as well. I'll be re-reading The Remains of the Day - purely because as part of my OU course assessment we have to rewrite the criteria for the Booker prize and then assess a book of our choice (plus five of the course books) against those criteria and come up with a winner. My book of choice will be the The Remains of the Day and so a reread seems in order.

Dec 31, 2014, 3:33pm Top

>28 jennyifer24: - it's a deal!

Dec 31, 2014, 3:40pm Top

I'm also intending to read Moon Tiger. I'm not sure which Ishiguro I'll read - if I get that far!

Dec 31, 2014, 4:39pm Top

*shuffling through, still trying to figure out where Penelope Lively is hiding among my small collection of books*

Dec 31, 2014, 5:06pm Top

>24 jll1976: thanks for the heads-up about the Guardian articles. Interesting about the coincidence and the role that the Tom Waits song played in his writing.

Dec 31, 2014, 6:44pm Top

I'm going to attempt Moon Tiger for Lively and The Remains of the Day for Ishiguro. :)

Jan 1, 2015, 9:18am Top

Well I suppose it is a little appropriate that I put up the first review of the year in the group:

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro's debut novel was unsuprisingly cast both in the England of his maturity and the Japan he was born to.

Tremendous potential revealed not only in the writer himself but also in a story that hints and postures almost more than it actually delivers. Elegiac and often unsettling, Ishiguros elegant yet spare prose leads the reader steadily into a shocking denouement not at all expected, if indeed read correctly.

Whilst I was not in truth absolutely blown away there were enough elements here that I found engaging and profound enough to have me looking forward to another Ishiguro book this month. The mixture of influences seems finely balanced in his writing although the far east probably colours his work less opaquely than his upbringing does.


First book of the year in the B.A.C Challenge for me.

Jan 1, 2015, 11:40am Top

I've begun reading my first-ever Penelope Lively, to wit How It All Began. I'm quite liking her writing style so far.

I am on the library reserve list for The Remains of the Day, so I have high hopes I'll be able to get that one in this month as well, though we'll see how slow the readers in front of me are. :-)

Jan 1, 2015, 11:48am Top

Finished my first book for the BAC challenge: The Photograph by Penelope Lively. My thoughts can be found here.

Jan 1, 2015, 1:04pm Top

I've got The Remains of the Day all ready to go...

Jan 1, 2015, 1:38pm Top

I am only 35 pages into Dancing Fish and Amonites but I've got pencil marks all over the pages. Here's a quote I'm loving: Reading in old age is doing for me what it has always done - it frees me from the closet of my own mind.


Jan 1, 2015, 1:57pm Top

I've got Remains of the day ready to go and will get to a Lively later in the month, probably Moon Tiger.

Jan 1, 2015, 5:07pm Top

I am wondering why Penelope Lively's book is called 'Ammonites and Leaping Fish: A Life in Time' in the UK and 'Dancing Fish and Ammonites: A Memoir' in the US. I can see that 'a memoir' is more descriptive than 'a life in time' but what's the point in changing the first part?

Jan 1, 2015, 5:15pm Top

I'm excited about both of these authors! I'll be attempting Moon Tiger and Never Let Me Go since they're both on my shelves.

Jan 1, 2015, 5:47pm Top

What a fun challenge for the new year. Thank you, Paul, for developing it!

I'll be reading The Remains of the Day, How It All Began, and Moon Tiger this month.

Edited: Jan 2, 2015, 9:39am Top

Nice review of A Pale View of Hills, Paul. I gave it 3½ (7/10) stars when I read it several years ago as well.

My first BAC book will be Moon Tiger, which I'll probably read early next week, as it's on my Kindle.

Jan 2, 2015, 11:06am Top

Going back

Going back is a wonderful novella that transports the reader back to the nostalgia of golden bough of youth when all summers are one hay-making and raspberry-time and lanes tented over with leaves and the tipping hillsides bleached pale where they have cut the corn (p. 52).

Jane goes back to the home where she lived as a seven-year old girl in the English countryside during the Second World War. Among many sweet memories, there's a marring one about running away from home with her brother Edward.

More than the actual visit, Going back is about remembering, bringing back memories of growing up at that special time, and thinking about the people, friends, her brother and especially, also, her father.

Going back was originally conceived as a children's book, however, later on Penelope Lively rewrote it for adult readership. Inevitable, on LT the two versions are listed together and tagged as children's literature, as a result of which many readers will miss this precious novella.

Other books I have read by Penelope Lively:
Next to nature, art

Jan 2, 2015, 3:04pm Top

Hey, there, I'm in. I've just ordered from the library:

The Ghost of Thomas Kempe by Penelope Lively

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I would have chosen A Stitch in Time for Lively, but the library didn't have it. I am most interested in her children's fiction, ever since I read a book discussing her work in conjunction with Alan Garner, Susan Cooper, and Diana Wynne Jones, all of whom I have read extensively.

I won't necessarily read both authors each month, but I'll start out strong at least!

Jan 2, 2015, 6:00pm Top

I just finished The Photograph by Lively. I'm only likely to read one of the authors per month so she was my pick for January.

Edited: Jan 2, 2015, 6:40pm Top

Finished this book at 9:13 AM today and just posted this on my thread:

Book Number 1 (BAC Challenge) was Penelope Lively's Consequences - the story of three generations of women, beginning a few years before WWII and ending around 2005-2006. Each of these women - Lorna, her daughter Molly and Molly's daughter, Ruth - made particular choices that - as choices do for everyone - resulted in a major life consequence. The three women are all possessed of strong personalities and for Lorna and Molly their personalities gave them, I thought, the ability to live unconventional lives in a very conventional time and place. (I think that by the time Ruth came along, it was much, much easier to do the things she did although there were consequences to her choices as well.)

Very impressed by this book and am giving it 5 stars. With literary fiction, I always hold back on that extra half-star if a really great book does not strike some emotional chord in me. This one did it in spades. How neat it would be if the rest of the books from the BAC turn out to be on a par with this first one!

Jan 2, 2015, 8:53pm Top

I received Never Let Me Go for Christmas, so I will try to get to it this month for the challenge!

Jan 2, 2015, 9:33pm Top

I'm a newcomer to the group but I have read a couple of books by both these authors The Photograph and How It All Began by Lively and The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro so I thought I would jump right in and read a couple more with you all. My library has City of the Mind by Lively and When We Were Orphans by Ishiguro.

Jan 2, 2015, 10:32pm Top

My plan is to read Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall. I read Never Let Me Go just last year. (And I have a copy of the film.)
I listened to an audio book of Remains of the Day some years ago- read by Nigel Hawthorne, aka Sir Humphrey Appleby. If I get time I might revisit it this month. That was a good movie too.

Jan 2, 2015, 11:05pm Top

This evening I read In Search of a Homeland: The Story of the Aeneid by Penelope Lively and illustrated by Ian Andrew. It is a retelling of the Aeneid for middle readers. Both text and illustrations are well done, but they don't mesh as well as they should.

Jan 3, 2015, 12:20am Top

Mightily impressed by the response so far. I will update the summary of who is reading what when I get a moment.

>50 dallenbaugh: Don't be squeamish Donna - jump right on in - the water is lovely. You are most welcome to join in as you please my dear.

Jan 3, 2015, 12:21am Top

and meanwhile..............

The Photograph by Penelope Lively

Penelope Lively understands. She understands people. She understands human weakness, the foibles and frailities of their natures; the capriciousness and selfishness that can intrude upon relationships. Relationships between marriage partners. Relationships between siblings. Relationships between in-laws. Relationships between friends.

I studied at Warwick university in the mid 1980s and attended a number of lectures by Jack Lively. Lively certainly but I don't recall charismatic though of an eminently giving manner. Have to admit I didn't realise that he had a wife that would soon eclipse his fame and win the Booker a few short years hence. Can't say I knew her and I don't recall ever seeing her but I can surmise that she understood her man and must have been a wonderfully wise companion.

Glyn finds a photograph of his recently passed wife of a compromising nature and it results in both him and those also impacted by what it reveals, questioning far more than their relationship to the departed.

I have enjoyed both my B.A.C Challenges so far but this was to my thinking the superior of the two.


Jan 3, 2015, 3:29am Top

I thought I'd post some comments here that I made on my thread in the autumn of 2013, after going to an author talk by Penelope Lively to promote her book Ammonites and Leaping Fish:

She describes Ammonites and Leaping Fish as 'not quite a memoir. Rather, it is the view from old age'. She gave a short but extremely interesting talk on the subjects of ageing and memory, and on looking back at the age of eighty at the objects that have made her what she is, a large proportion of which seemed to be books. An interesting comment that she made (to me at least) was that she felt more rooted in the current day rather than in the late 40's or 50's of her youth and I asked the question if she felt this was characteristic of people of her age. Certainly, I've noticed that some people seem to move forward no matter what their age, whereas others (including my Mum) 'stop' at a particular decade (maybe the 1980's in the case of my Mum). I suppose that I've had a nagging worry that maybe I too will 'stop' sometime soon, so was very interested to see if this is inevitable.

Jan 3, 2015, 7:14am Top

>55 SandDune: Fascinating Rhian. Then it is a good job that we are not "dated" by the books we read. Would probably place me in the 1940's and heaven knows which century we would find Liz in.

Jan 3, 2015, 8:48am Top

I love the comment SandDune quotes from her earlier reading of Dancing Fish and Amonites (The title in the USA). I too am finding it to be a fascinating picture of her thinking about "old age".

Well, we seem to be off to a great start to the year! Thank you, Paul, for setting this up with such an interesting set of January authors.

Jan 3, 2015, 11:53am Top

Ah, the only Lively book I could find was The Ghost of Thomas Kempe. Which I've started, and seems lovely. But all of these comments about her other books are driving me wild with the desire to read them as well! This is the first time I've done an author challenge - does this always happen? Will I be driven mad every month by the green grass on the other side of the fence? (Particularly after devouring the delicious grass on my own side of the fence) Is my To Read list doomed to grow exponentially over the course of the year??

Jan 3, 2015, 11:57am Top

Jan 3, 2015, 12:44pm Top

>58 evilmoose: I am sure that there will be a few authors that most of us cannot abide as the year rolls on! - for now my first two picks (December wasn't my choices remember) seem to have been pitched reasonably well.

Jan 3, 2015, 1:11pm Top

Oh, my word - I am on my 6th page of reading about the dignity of butlers in The Remains of the Day. Ack! Realize it is early on, but feel as if Ishiguro is punishing me for some dreadful crime.

Jan 3, 2015, 9:24pm Top

>61 Fourpawz2: Yes, I was pondering attempting the BAC in addition to the AAC. However, when I started looking at the authors for the BAC and looked through Kazuo Ishiguro's works none of them sounded interesting which is weird since I loved Never Let Me Go.

Jan 3, 2015, 10:42pm Top

>61 Fourpawz2: Hahaha Charlotte. Did you ever get into a fight with a butler, or throw popcorn at the screen whilst watching Downton Abbey?

>62 Tara1Reads: Never mind, not every month will sing to all of us. There are twelve months (and a thirteenth) if you want to make a substitution. Join in at any stage you feel like.

Edited: Jan 7, 2015, 7:34pm Top

I've finished the utterly delightful How It All Began by Penelope Lively. I'm so happy to have been introduced to this marvelous author. Thanks, Paul!

My review is on the book page.

Jan 4, 2015, 12:17am Top

My thoughts on Penelope Lively's The Ghost of Thomas Kempe, after finishing the audiobook:

A children's ghost story - it's sweet, but short (at 156pp) and simple. A few of the other reviewers noted that much of the charm of the book lies in the boy, James, who is the main character, rather than the actual ghost story portion, which I would agree with. (★★★½)

I'm now lamenting the fact I didn't manage to track down one of her adult books, which others seem to be enjoying so much. It looks like my library may be able to get copies of a few of her works, so I may try and read one of those this month too.

Jan 4, 2015, 2:51am Top

I've just completed A Pale View of Hills and perhaps someone on this list can enlighten me, as I don't think I've read a Japanese author before.
First, when someone is called "-San", is that a term of endearment, like, "Mary, dear"? or does it mean something else?
Second, I noticed that in some conversations, one person repeatedly uses the first name of the other, but that other person does not do the same. For example, when Etsuko and Sachiki speak with each other, Sachiki repeatedly uses Etsuko's name, but Etsuko does not use Sachiki's name. Is this a sign of respect? That is, the elder speaks to the younger, using his/her name, but the younger does not call an elder by his/her first name? Or is there some other reason? Thanks for any insights on the cultural traditions in the book.

Jan 4, 2015, 11:40am Top

Last night I finished Cleopatra's Sister by Penelope Lively, a wonderful little novel. My review is here.

Jan 4, 2015, 1:00pm Top

>66 kac522: "-san" after a person's name means Mr. or Mrs., not really a term of endearment, but a formal term.

Edited: Jan 4, 2015, 1:04pm Top

Finished Lively's The Ghost of Thomas Kempe last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. I may have to see if my local library has any of her books.

Jan 4, 2015, 2:31pm Top

>68 catarina1: Thank you.

Edited: Jan 4, 2015, 2:50pm Top

>66 kac522: Kathy, very interesting point for discussion. Having lived in Asia for more than twenty years and spending much of that time working with Korean and Japanese clients as well as having a close Japanese friend, it is evident how formally polite they can be. 'San' is not a term of endearment but one of respect. Then there is the issue of bowing which is referred to also in the book. A younger person will invariably bow to an older person lower than the older person bows to them out of respect for age/experience. Koreans and Japanese will usually use family name and position when conversing with colleagues. For example an assistant manager in Korea is called "Deri" and therefore somebody whose name is Kim Jin-Soo (Jin-Soo being his given names) will be referred to at work as "Kim Deri".

Jan 4, 2015, 2:53pm Top

I'm a bit annoyed that my library doesn't have any Ishiguro available to borrow as an ebook. I was half thinking I might try and tick off both authors each month, but alas, I've been thwarted.

Edited: Jan 4, 2015, 3:13pm Top

>71 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul. My only experience has been with Asian-Americans here in the U.S., mostly Vietnamese and Koreans. I worked in an office in a university and supervised many Asian student workers. I learned by experience that these students would never look me in the eye when I spoke to them, especially those who were recent immigrants. At first it was disconcerting, but then I learned that this was a sign of respect. As they became more "Americanized", some became more comfortable with looking their elders in the eye, but you could see it was a struggle for others.

Follow-up question re: "San": I think a couple of times in the book, the child Mariko is called "Mariko-San" by an adult. What would this say about the meaning of the conversation between the adult and the child?

Jan 4, 2015, 6:41pm Top

I've very excited! I just landed my first PAID review. I will be doing a review of the new Kazuo Ishiguro for The Big Issue. 2015 already shaping up to be a good year!

Jan 4, 2015, 7:22pm Top

>73 kac522: I was struck by that too actually. Maybe she was being ironic?

>74 jll1976: Well done Jacqui!

Edited: Jan 4, 2015, 8:01pm Top

Finished my second book for January - The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. I remember seeing the movie way back when. Well, actually I didn't truly see the movie - just the opening credits and about twelve minutes of the movie itself. The rest of it I slept through. So you can imagine that yesterday, when I hit the section on the subject of the great butlers known by the narrator over the course of time - which lasted for an horrendously long 15 pages - I did not have much hope that I would actually get through this one. Not at all what I wanted as I really did want to be successful in this challenge and not crap out of the whole thing on the third day of the year.

Well - not to worry. Started at page 56 this morning and read pretty steadily all day (taking time out for a few household things and the occasional side trip into other books that I have going) finishing this one at 4:40 this afternoon. My conclusion - this is a good book. Probably it is a very good book. I thought, as I approached the last quarter of it, that there was a vague possibility that it is - just as almost everyone says - a great book. But I was, at that point, still only expecting to give it something between a 4 and 4.5 star rating. But then I read the last section - "Weymouth" and discovered that this book demands a 5 star rating from me. Definitely a book to be re-read and more than once.

Can the BAC books continue being so very, very good? I sure hope so.

Jan 4, 2015, 10:14pm Top

Ooh, Ishiguro is one of my favorite living novelists (if not my absolute favorite)! I've read all of his books, but have been considering a re-read of one of my old favorites, perhaps Never Let Me Go or When We Were Orphans. I'm incredibly excited for his first new novel in quite a while to be released later this year!

In fact, put me down for a When We Were Orphans reread.

Jan 4, 2015, 10:18pm Top

>76 Fourpawz2: Enjoyed your review Charlotte.

Q: "Can the BAC books continue being so very, very good? I sure hope so."

A: I expect that it is extremely unlikely. I have read 2 absolute duds from 5 books so far this year and am still happy enough!

Jan 5, 2015, 12:36am Top

Just finished my read/listen of A Pale View of Hills too. Unsettling, fascinating, beautiful story, although I wasn't blown away, it certainly leaves you in a contemplative mood. 4 stars from me, and the thought that I'd like to read an actual book version of it, as the audiobook was a little odd in some ways.

Jan 5, 2015, 1:42am Top

I just finished The Remains of the Day and am so glad I didn't give in to the temptation to quit after 50 pages. I had planned on giving my copy away once I finished, but now I think it has earned a space on my shelf next to my E. M. Forster novels (well, not literally next to them since that would be an alphabetical nightmare).

Jan 5, 2015, 7:14am Top

>80 amanda4242: - That was exactly my experience, Amanda. Such a good book, but you don't get there right away.

Jan 5, 2015, 9:23am Top

I finished The Photograph by Penelope Lively. I liked it but did not love it. She sure knows how to write people. Sometimes I prefer the company of dogs. ;-)

Edited: Jan 5, 2015, 1:24pm Top

#002 When We Were Orphans - Kazuo Ishiguro - 10h6/320p -
audiobook unabridged narrated by Michael Maloney
✿ Challenge 10: IOU challenge: Read a book by someone whose name ends in I, O, or U
BAC 2015 January - Kazuo Ishiguro

This is my 5th book by Ishiguro, but The Remains of the Day will always be my favourite.

Quite early on in the story it becomes clear that this is not our classical detective story, but a story about personal growth and a too late recognized grand illusion. Similar to Stevens in The Remains of the Day, Christopher, our main protagonist, realizes at the end that he sacrificed his happiness for the wrong reasons.

“All I know is that I've wasted all these years looking for something, a sort of trophy I'd get only if I really, really did enough to deserve it. But I don't want it anymore, I want something else now, something warm and sheltering, something I can turn to, regardless of what I do, regardless of who I become. Something that will just be there, always, like tomorrow's sky. That's what I want now, and I think it's what you should want too. But it will be too late soon. We'll become too set to change. If we don't take our chance now, another may never come for either of us.”

Christopher is born in Shanghai and when he looses his parents to an apparent kidnapping, he has to go back to England. There he lives with his aunt , in London and attends boarding schools. He is the odd child, the outsider and someone who considers himself to be a survival artist. Deeply troubled, a child who lives in his own fantasy world and believes that he can hide his true being from everyone around him. He wants to become a great detective to unravel the riddle of his childhood trauma. This discrepancy of self-perception and what other think of Christopher, runs like a red thread through the story. At least his dreams of becoming a great detective become true.

The whole story appears to be like a walk through Christopher's memory landscapes in which incredible high hedges are blocking the way, and constantly narrow the path into nothingness. The strongest passages in the book are the flashbacks into Christopher's childhood. Although, they are collections of individual episodes of his childhood, they manage to knit themselves into a fascinating story.

The second part of the book, where Christopher goes back to Shanghai to find his parents initially didn't quite work for me and I it just felt like a brake in the story line. Everyone in Shanghai appeared to know him, and their greatest concern was to assist him in solving the crime committed almost ? 20 years earlier. He was treated like some kind of saviour and at times, this strange status was just incomprehensible to me.

“The colonel nodded. "Our childhood seems so far away now. All this" - he gestured out of the vehicle - "so much suffering. One of our Japanese poets, a court lady many years ago, wrote how sad this was. She wrote of how our childhood becomes like a foreign land once we have grown."
"Well, Colonel, it's hardly a foreign land to me. In many ways, it's where I've continued to live all my life. It's only now I've started to make my journey from it.”

Well, and here I realized that the exaggerated Shanghai part was just another way to show us how the perceptions and memories of Christopher and his surroundings diverged, and how his life-lie finally starts to get holes.

Definitely a good read and one I can recommend.

Just finished this last night. Still have two Lively's on my stack.

Jan 5, 2015, 11:17am Top

>80 amanda4242:
"Alphabetical nightmare." Made me laugh right out loud!! I love LT where everyone understands that kind of thing!!

Jan 5, 2015, 4:17pm Top

I finished listening to Consequences by Penelope Lively. This was my first novel by her and it was not a stellar experience. This novel covers the second half of twentieth century British life and is told through the eyes of three generations of women who were each single mothers. Each of these women made choices and created a life for themselves in the same but different ways. While the author writes beautifully this novel is disjointed and seems unconnected. It doesn't have emotional resonance or depth and as a reader I was never sure what point the author was trying to make. I could never find any hook for this novel and as a result it made pleasant listening but never made me care about any of the three women. It also suffered from an identity crises. What is it? As a romance novel it falls flat on its face, as historical fiction it lacks deep ties to events. It excels as a character study but those make for boring reading unless there is some kind of emotional attachment to those characters and that lack of attachment is the major flaw of this book. I think it is a book that tries too hard to be insightful and fails. The title is another problem. It is an odd choice, as I could never see the connection between it and the lives of the women. The bottom line is that it is well written but plotless and pointless. Had I not been trapped in the car for hours during a long road trip I would not have stayed with this book to the end.

Jan 6, 2015, 4:08pm Top

I finished Ammonites and Leaping Fish by Penelope Lively. This is a memoir that's not really a trip down memory lane as a discussion on what makes old age. Are you still the same person in your 80s as you were in your 20s? Can one relate to another and is there a natural age for everyone, a decade in which they feel most at home? The chapter on memory was particularly, especially from a novelist used to writing a narrative arc - somehow real life lacks that narrative arc, things don't always happen logically, they don't always end up in a neat solution. It's not a memoir in the conventional sense, more a set of musings about age, aging and life in general.

Jan 6, 2015, 4:23pm Top

I've finished Penelope Lively's How It All Began and really enjoyed it. I'll be looking for more by her on my next library trip. Helenliz, it sounds like some of the themes in Ammonites and Leaping Fish are the same as in How it All Began.

I've put some comments on my thread but Julia's review (the link is in post 64) says what I thought very eloquently.

Jan 6, 2015, 5:21pm Top

I'm just about ready to dive into When We Were Orphans. Skimmed through Bianca's comments and reassured that it's going to be a good one.

Jan 6, 2015, 9:33pm Top

I just finished The Remains of the Day. I had read it many years ago, and luckily had forgotten much of it--not something that will happen this time. Others have remarked on Ishiguro's restraint; what amazes me is the way that Stevens' character emerges because of what he withholds. Beautifully done.

Edited: Jan 7, 2015, 11:24am Top

About 20% into An Artist of the Floating World I thought that it reminded me much of Remains of the Day and now I believe I even read that somewhere, i.e. that RotD was something like a rewrite in a traditional English setting.
Now I am close to finishing it and while I enjoy the writing, I don't like the course the story is taking. I assume it is meant to be an uncomfortable read.

Edited to add that I now finished it and am relieved the ending wasn't as I thought it would be. 4 stars in the end.

Jan 7, 2015, 12:20pm Top

I finished Moon Tiger last night and gave it a 3.5 stars. She is a beautiful writer, but I just couldn't connect with her characters. My review can be found here.

Next up for the challenge will be The Remains of the Day.

Jan 7, 2015, 12:40pm Top

Ammonites and Leaping Fish: A life in Time Penelope Lively ****

'This is not quite a memoir' says Penelope Lively in the preface of Ammonites and Leaping Fish. 'Rather it is the view from old age'. And that is exactly what it is, a series of musings on the issues of ageing and memory, dealing with the more general issues of the old in today's society certainly, but above all a personal view from Penelope Lively's own perspective at the age of eighty. But this is not just a consideration of what it means to be old, a catalogue of the tribulations of old age - arthritis and failing eyesight and more and more hospital visits - it's much more interesting and wide-ranging than that.

One of the most fascinating elements of the book to me is Lively's consideration of the relationship between the older and the younger self. She argues that as who we are is so bound up with the times through which we are living, as well as with our own life experiences, our attitudes on looking back to our younger selves can almost seem 'kindly, indulgent, as though towards a younger relative'. We are clearly the same person, but also somehow ... not.

Does anyone identify with the age in which they were young? I don't. It seems to me more that we slide accommodatingly along with the decades, adjusting plumage as we go - dressing accordingly, thinking accordingly, or up to a point. I don't feel
out of sympathy with today, by no means, though it has aspects that I deplore; I can play the grumpy old woman at moments. But there is far more that is alien and unappealing about 1945.

I'm not sure I agree with her about the universality of this. I've certainly known people who would be much more comfortable living out their lives without the changes in attitudes, society, or technology that have happened in their later years, my mother being one of them. But equally I know people at eighty or more who embrace the current day for what it can offer. Perhaps it is all a matter of personality.

But one thing that has been ubiquitous in Lively's life, and remains so even as other pleasures have diminished or been abandoned, is the love of books. Here's something to look forward to when I reach eighty:

Can't garden. Don't want to travel. But can read, must read. For me, reading is the essential palliative, the daily fix. Old reading, revisiting, but new reading too, lots of it, reading in all directions, plenty of fiction, history and archaeology always, reading to satisfy perennial tastes, reading sideways too - try her, try him, try that ... So I have my drug, perfectly legal and I don't need a prescription.

I've enjoyed all of Penelope Lively's books that I've read and this one is no exception. My only caveat is that the discussion about certain objects (where we eventually get to meet the ammonites and leaping fish), a device that works well in her earlier book A
House Unlocked, here feels rather tacked onto the end. But otherwise very enjoyable, and recommended.

Jan 7, 2015, 12:54pm Top

That is such a lovely review, Rhian. Did you post it to the book page? If so, I will thumb it. And BB for me - nice work!

Jan 7, 2015, 2:13pm Top

>93 Crazymamie: Thanks Mamie. I have posted it. I should have mentioned that I went to a talk by Penelope Lively last year as part of her promotion of this book, and was very impressed with her engagement with life, even at a fairly advanced age!

Edited: Jan 9, 2015, 10:56am Top

At the library last night I found Lively's The Photograph ETA: bailed on it.

Jan 7, 2015, 3:04pm Top

I am planning on dipping my toe in with a children's book written by Penelope Lively. I hope to start A Stitch In Time early next week.

Jan 7, 2015, 4:23pm Top

I read (or listened to) Nocturnes, and while it was mildly diverting, it wasn't up to the standard of his novels. There was in all the stories (to a greater or lesser extent) an air of unreality and in some cases it descended to pure farce. The stories all involve music and change of some kind, none of them are terribly uplifting, but none of them pack a real emotional punch. I thought the first was the pick of the bunch, with the 5th a close second. Not one I could recommend. Maybe the shorter format simply doesn't suit him as well as the novel. It seems to me that more happens in some of these than in the entire length of "Remains of the Day", and yet that I can still recall emotions and feelings about, this barely stayed with me to the end of the disk.

Jan 7, 2015, 4:24pm Top

Fantastic review, Rhian. It's great that you could meet her in person.

Jan 7, 2015, 6:33pm Top

Ammonites must be a theme, or a talisman of some kind, for Lively. In the first three pages of Moon Tiger I found this quotation: "Have one of those drifting floating feathery crustaceans narrate. Or an ammonite? Yes, an ammonite, I think. An ammonite with a sense of destiny. A spokesperson for the streaming Jurassic seas, to tell it how it was."

Jan 7, 2015, 6:36pm Top

One of the main characters in Cleopatra's Sister was a paleontologist and the novel included a lot about ammonites and other fossils. Interesting...

Jan 7, 2015, 6:47pm Top

>90 Deern:
That's correct! Ishiguro specifically wanted the novels to mirror each other in different cultural settings. In almost every other aspect they're the same.

Jan 7, 2015, 6:59pm Top

Well, this thread is providing such wonderful insights. I've bookmarked Dancing Fish and Ammonites at my local library as a result of reading SandDune's wonderful review, and now that I've re-read The Remains of the Day and read okrysmastree's comment above, I'm thinking I also need to read An Artist of the Floating World. Thanks to you all!

Jan 7, 2015, 7:32pm Top

>87 cushlareads: Aw, thank you, Cushla! I am also looking forward to reading some more Lively.

Jan 8, 2015, 4:54pm Top

I've just started reading the uncorrected proof of The Buried Giant...28 pages in and if I didn't have to get off the train and go to stupid work I'd still be reading it.

Jan 8, 2015, 9:24pm Top

>104 jll1976:
You have no idea how envious I am of you right now! I would love to be in your shoes, that's my "most anticipated" book of 2015.

Jan 8, 2015, 10:05pm Top

>96 DeltaQueen50:, >99 benitastrnad: A Stitch in Time is a lovely little book, and like all of Lively's writing that I've read so far, whether for adults or children, is concerned with history and memory. And this is another one that features ammonites!

Coming into this discussion after much neglect of LT, I'm so pleased to see people exploring Lively in this group read. I will have to get on with reading some of her others on my TBR pile...

Jan 8, 2015, 11:45pm Top

>92 SandDune: I agree with most of the others, Rhian. Splendidly thoughtful review.

>104 jll1976: Hahaha that is brilliant, Jacqui. I didn't think with my timing anyone would be able to include that in the challenge. xx

Jan 9, 2015, 11:29am Top

I just started Never Let Me Go. I liked a number of his other books, but have never read this one.

Jan 9, 2015, 12:01pm Top

>108 jnwelch: Joe, I think I liked the movie version a little more than the book Never Let Me Go. I think the book reveals just a little too early. Individually and together though they are pretty terrific.

Jan 9, 2015, 12:16pm Top

>109 RBeffa: Hmm, thanks, Ron. I'd forgotten about the movie, and that's helpful to hear you liked it even a little more than the book, and that they're great together.

Jan 9, 2015, 12:28pm Top

I just finished City of the Mind by Penelope Lively. It was a fascinating look at the city of London during the 1990's as the author adroitly wove personal details of the life of Matthew Halland, London architect in between chronicles of the city past and present. She continues with her interest in how memory and time interact together and how the past is always part of the present. My full review is here.

Edited: Jan 9, 2015, 2:13pm Top

I just gave up and put The Ghost of Thomas Kempe on hold at the library. I'm afraid that, short of tearing down walls, I'm not going to locate my copy of Moon Tiger in time for this month's reading. It will turn up somewhere ridiculously obvious 'long about June.

Jan 10, 2015, 12:48am Top

I'm fully engrossed in Moon Tiger. What a beautiful novel!

I'm off to thumb Rhian's review of Ammonites and Leaping Fish, too.

Jan 10, 2015, 9:13pm Top

Moon Tiger **.5

Well, finally finished Moon Tiger and it was an effort! It was going to get 2 stars, but I upgraded it because it really was a good story - I just didn't like the way it was told. I like stories to start at the beginning, progress through time with plot and character development, then reach a climax, followed by a conclusion. This story jumped back and forth in time with little added value. I also dislike stories that are told by more than one narrator, particularly when no effort is made to indicate the change of narrators. The author frequently described an event from one person's perspective, then in the next paragraph retold the same event from another perspective, with little difference from the first telling! Grrrr!

Moon Tiger won the Booker Prize in 1987. I must judge books on an entirely different level.

Jan 10, 2015, 9:33pm Top

I finished Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall earlier today and I really enjoyed it. Now on to Lively.....

Edited: Jan 11, 2015, 7:15pm Top

Just starting part 3 of Consequences but had to take a break and process. I'm afraid to read too much in this thread for fear of spoilers :-) Have you ever read a major event early in a book, then have gone back and realized it was in the front flap summary? I always wonder if I would have read the book differently if I'd read the flap beforehand...

Jan 12, 2015, 1:19pm Top

I read in the New York Times book review that Ishiguro has a new book coming out in March. The title is Buried Giant. The reviewer said that it was a fantasy and some people might call it magical realism, but that it was very different from his previous work. Enough different that fans of previous novels might not like this new one. All of that sounds interesting and has whet my appetite for it.

Jan 12, 2015, 4:50pm Top

>117 benitastrnad: I'm about 3/4 through The Buried Giant. I'm loving it. You're right it is very different to Ishiguro' previous work. That is of course except for his talent for using words and sentences to create these terrific worlds of the imagination. I'll be writing a review of it for The Big Issue - I'll be sure to post a link to it when it's published. :)

Jan 12, 2015, 8:31pm Top

I must say The Buried Giant sounds very interesting.

Jan 13, 2015, 11:44am Top

I finished Never Let Me Go, and my review is here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/186365#5005439 Good, solid read.

Jan 13, 2015, 9:48pm Top

I finished Nocturnes during lunch today. I'm taking a break to read a non-fiction book before I start the book by Lively that I have checked out of the library.

Jan 14, 2015, 3:13am Top

I've finished The Remains of the Day and will be tackling a Lively book in a few days.

Jan 14, 2015, 10:44am Top

I finished A Pale View of Hills last night. It's quite different from my usual 4-star books--I like an ending that is an ending--but this one is worth it. The spare writing, and the portrayal of the elusiveness and sheer trickery of memory make this one a marvelous book for me. A book to think about and savor.

Jan 14, 2015, 2:01pm Top

I have finished A Stitch In Time by Penelope Lively and I found it to be lovely story. While on holiday in the Lyme Regis area, a little girl comes to believe that she is being haunted by another little girl, one who lived in the house many years ago.

>106 gennyt: I did find this a delightful story, Genny, and the setting of Lyme Regis allowed the characters to go fossil hunting on the beaches and at the foot of the cliffs in the area, keeping true to Lively's interests. (see picture below)

Jan 14, 2015, 6:22pm Top

I just finished Lively's In Search of a Homeland: The story of the Aeneid. I quite enjoyed it and probably would have absolutely loved it as a kid.

Jan 14, 2015, 11:04pm Top

I have started another Lively this morning - How it all Began. So far so good. I am hoping to now read three of hers and possibly the same for Ishiguro in January.

Jan 15, 2015, 10:29am Top

Just started Remains of the Day. I've gotten off to a slow start for 2015. Sigh.

Edited: Jan 15, 2015, 1:24pm Top

I finished Moon Tiger and loved it. This one will be a 4.5 star read - and I rarely give those out. This is simply a wonderful novel. It captures the mood of the time and draws the reader straight into 1942 Cairo. This definitely deserved the Booker Prize. This is one that I will be recommending to all my reader friends. Earlier this month I had read Consequences and thought it dull and without emotion or plot. Moon Tiger redeemed the author in my eyes and I have decided to read Photograph as I am now curious to know if Moon Tiger is a one-time-wonder or the norm for this author.

Moon Tiger reminded me so much of English Patient and the Bartle Bull books Cafe on the Nile and Devil's Oasis.

Edited: Jan 16, 2015, 12:04pm Top

I finished Lively's short story collection The Five Thousand and One Nights last night. Some of the stories were better than others, of course, but the entire collection was overall very good.

Jan 16, 2015, 12:32pm Top

>128 benitastrnad: thanks for the review of Moon Tiger. I was going to read that one for this month but had been cooled by some previous review of it. So started How It All Began instead (about half way through, hasn't really "grabbed" me yet). Guess I will have to try Moon Tiger after all.

Jan 16, 2015, 2:30pm Top

>128 benitastrnad: I just finished Moon TIger as well, and also gave it 4.5 stars. I really enjoyed that Lively gave us a review of a successful, and unconventional, woman's life, covering good and bad, young and old. For the most part; the writing was exquisite.

Jan 16, 2015, 5:59pm Top

>131 banjo123: I must join the chorus of praise for Moon Tiger. Lively presents an intimate portrait of a fiercely independent woman, intelligent and adventurous, as she reviews the world from the uncompromising perspective of her own life. I loved the way memory was represented as simultaneity of events - and how Lively shows us the truth of other people's perspectives as well. Wonderful writing.

Jan 16, 2015, 6:04pm Top

Finished Consequences last night- it wasn't exactly my kind of book. I don't like the ones that just skip decades of time and your characters are suddenly 20 years older without any warning. Looks like I shouldn't give up on Lively though- lots of good reviews for her other books!

copied and pasted from my 75 book challenge page:

This book felt like it took much longer than 6 days to read. I really don't care for books that skip large amounts of time with the same characters, so I kind of had to regroup partway through this one. (The first 10 minutes of Up ruined the whole movie for me!) I thought I was going to read a WWII historical fiction and somehow ended up in the 2000s! I found it hard to connect to the characters after Part II. Lively gave such a lovely background on Matt and Lorna, I really felt invested in them as characters and couldn't wait to read more. This storyline was quickly yanked out from under me and I never really recovered. So few life events were discussed with some of the characters, and I didn't always understand why Lively chose the ones she did.

An interesting idea pulled from this book was that of family history lost to time. I wanted to tell the later members of the family the story about Lorna and Matt that I knew, since they didn't have anyone to share it with them. I felt like I knew more about their family than they did. It definitely made me think of my own family, and the stories that have been lost to time.

I did add Consequences to Challenge 20 of the January TIOLI challenges, if anyone else does those!

Edited: Jan 16, 2015, 10:45pm Top

I felt much the same way about Consequences when I read it. It just didn't connect for me. That said, it was with a spirit of trepidation that I started on Moon Tiger and I loved that book. It was a totally different reading experience and a much better executed book in so many ways. My very positive reaction to it was unexpected given my lukewarm response to the first book of hers that I read. Because of Moon Tiger I have now started reading Photograph and so far it is keeping my attention. I think that changing points-of-view must be a literary characteristic of Lively's, as she is doing it in Photograph.

Jan 17, 2015, 3:22am Top

Finished Moon Tiger - and I'm with Benita on this. I loved it. The main narrative voice is unlikeable for the most part, yet you are drawn to her and with her. There was one thing (skirting round spoilers) that I expected nearly from the beginning which did happen and one thing that took me quite by surprise.

Anyway, loved it.

I'm about 1/5 through The Unconsoled which is rather long and so far intriguing/confusing. As I noted on my own thread, it so far reads more like a Murakami than an Ishiguro - not so much stylistically, but the storyline (or lack thereof).

Jan 17, 2015, 6:38am Top

Finished Nocturnes yesterday evening. My thoughts can be found here.

Jan 17, 2015, 7:10am Top

I finished How it All Began last night and loved it (4.5 stars). Between this and Moon Tiger, which I read quite some time ago, I am now a confirmed Lively fan. Thanks Paul for this challenge which inspired me to read more of her work.

Jan 17, 2015, 7:12am Top

>133 jennyifer24: & >134 benitastrnad: I don't have Consequences on the shelves as yet and it doesn't appear to be her most acclaimed work! Glad that overall she seems to be well received. I will be compiling stats shortly regarding who has read what.
{I was never NOT going to do stats now was I?}

Jan 17, 2015, 10:05am Top

I finished Remains of the Day earlier this week. And while cynical me was sniggering about it being a cross between Downton Abbey and The Rosie Project during the early chapters, I loved the wonderful subtle ending and it will be high on my personal favorites list.

I've now started Moon Tiger and have trouble putting it down.

Jan 17, 2015, 8:20pm Top

I am alternating months between Paul's BAC and Mark's AAC. January was British with Penelope Lively's Moon Tiger. She is a new author to me and I am thrilled that LT and Paul have pulled me in! I will definitely be reading more of Lively. Thanks Paul!

Jan 18, 2015, 3:55am Top

Those of you reading Remains of the day might be interested in the latest Guardian Books podcast ..


Jan 19, 2015, 6:04pm Top

I read The Remains of the Day this weekend and gave it 4.5 stars. It was wonderful!

Edited: Jan 19, 2015, 10:03pm Top

I have read Ishiguro's Nocturnes 4 stars, and Penelope Lively's Consequences, 4 stars, with smallish reviews on my thread. A delightful start and I intend to pursue more Lively.

Jan 19, 2015, 9:46pm Top

>140 Berly: Thanks Kimmers! And of course to everyone who has participated and enjoyed the challenge so far this month. The response has far exceeded my expectations.

Jan 19, 2015, 9:48pm Top

I read my second Lively of the month (and have started my second Ishiguro). Review edited from my thread:

How it all Began by Penelope Lively

Date of Publication : 2011

My second dalliance with Ms. Lively in January for the B.A.C. Challenge also trod some of the ground beaten down in The Photograph. The perambulation that results through the lives of several characters impacted either directly or indirectly by a single act of violence is splendidly realised.

Penelope Lively's concerns as a writer, her themes if you will, are not earth shattering ones. She will not grip you and drag you breathless to the end of a well plotted narrative with a story that stuns or confounds. Her ways are more subtle. Her style is urbane and knowing but not pretentious. Extra-Marital affairs, the effects of ageing upon the memory and the bones, money troubles, the struggle for identity in a changing world,the use of language and the benefits of reading - these are the issues that coax rather than propel the reader to satisfaction.

She is very observant and creates characters that are believeable, making them say words that seem suitable to their situations. I do think she would have been a marvellous playwright had she attempted the form. She also understands that stories should reflect life and avoid the convenient endings. These novels are not epics but they are very nicely crafted.

Jan 20, 2015, 12:21am Top

>141 roundballnz: Thank you for posting that link. Ishiguro talking about Remains of the Day is not to be missed!

Jan 20, 2015, 6:10am Top

The review of my second Lively for the month, Moon Tiger is here if anyone is interested:


Jan 20, 2015, 8:32am Top

>147 lunacat: A very good review! I had similar problems with Moon Tiger. It just wasn't compelling.

Jan 20, 2015, 9:13am Top

I've just started The Remains of the Day last night but I have the sense that I am going to enjoy it very much.

Jan 20, 2015, 10:13am Top

This may be a bit presumptuous of me but I'm going to cross-post my reviews of Moon Tiger and The Remains of the Day here. If, in future, folks would prefer a link to the review, just speak up and I'll do that in future months. This just seems easier (I know, the HTML isn't that hard, but I just don't have it completely memorized yet).

Jan 20, 2015, 10:13am Top

Moon Tiger
5 stars

I loved this novel! Seventy-six-year-old Claudia contemplates "the potency of life" from her death bed. She sardonically states her intention to write a history of the world and, instead, tells the history of her life. Her life is, of course, a reflection of (part of) the history of the world, and this narrative provides a mirror in which to view the terrible insignificance of any particular life in the context of the whole of human existence. Fate, destiny, self-determination. Connection, isolation, aloneness-in-intimacy. Love, loss, death, grief. It's all here, beautifully examined through Lively's remarkable prose.

Claudia is not an entirely sympathetic protagonist and that is part of Lively's point. Claudia herself names her own ambition and striving as key players in the disappointment of her life. But, on a larger level, the vicissitudes of fate or luck, the time into which one is born, the context of place in which one finds oneself -- all determines the path of one's life and there is only so much truth to the absurd notion that "destiny is what one makes of it."

"But no one likes the idea of chance, so they play games with language and talk about miracles instead." The power of language and the role it plays in defining truth, creating meaning: this is also a theme throughout this novel. And of course there is love. Love, a word that is "overstretched" and "cannot be made to do service for so many different things -- love of children , love of friends, love of God, carnal love and cupidity and saintliness."

My library copy of Moon Tiger is littered with post-it flags but there is no way to fully capture the scope of the novel's emotional field. I experienced brief moments of boredom but it's the joy that I will remember.

Jan 20, 2015, 10:14am Top

The Remains of the Day
4.5 stars

Mr. Stevens, butler for Darlington Hall, is taking an unheard of holiday, motoring across the English countryside for a few days. His destination: a meet-up with the former housekeeper for Darlington Hall, Mrs. Benn, nee Kenton. He harbors the hope that he can persuade her to return to address a staffing problem at the great house, now owned by a wealthy American, as he believes she is unhappy in her marriage and planning to leave her husband. Along the way, Stevens reminisces about events in the great house to which he has dedicated his career, especially during the 1930s when the lord of the house was playing host to a handful of eminent noblemen and politicians, hoping to broker a more peaceful Europe. He also reminisces about his friendship with Miss Kenton during her employ at the house.

This is a beautifully written wry portrait of an aging butler, a man who has carried himself through his professional life with an unflagging dedication to the dignity of the office, and who has paid the emotional price. Ishiguro's sense of irony is pitch-perfect and elegantly wrought. Mr. Stevens and Miss Kenton are richly developed characters, created wholly through Mr. Stevens' imperfect and constrained memory of events and conversations. I found myself chuckling with delight at his deadpan delivery while also feeling tremendous sadness at the emotional cost of his choices. As a "Downton Abbey" fan, I occasionally channeled Mr. Carson's voice for that of Stevens, but Miss Kenton is her own character (Emma Thompson notwithstanding). Wonderful and highly recommended.

Jan 20, 2015, 10:47am Top

I like how there is a range of reactions to the books. It's awesome to see the different takes and perspectives that one book can offer and for me this is a group is a safe place to express honest opinions, whether I like or dislike a book!

Jan 20, 2015, 12:51pm Top

I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew with The Unconsoled! It's not the length so much - it's over 400 pages, it's the fact that it is in no way a quick read. I get the feeling it will be finished in February...

Jan 20, 2015, 2:10pm Top

So far I've read two novels by Penelope Lively. The first last year was How It All Began, and this month I read Moon Tiger, which I'd been looking forward to for a long time as it had been highly recommended. Unfortunately, both novels failed to work for me. Beautiful writing in both cases, but I felt distant from the protagonists and especially from the narrator Claudia in Moon Tiger, and though this story had all the elements which should have made it very interesting to me, it didn't manage to captivate me somehow, though I was willing enough. My review is here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/185670#5010454

I won't dismiss Lively completely yet. Will give her one more chance but if I still don't connect with her, I'll conclude she and I simply don't click.

Going to the library today to pick up An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro. If I can fit it in, I may reread The Remains of the Day in audiobook format as well, this being among my all-time favourites.

Jan 20, 2015, 3:37pm Top

>150 EBT1002: Not presumptious at all Ellen. It is a little bit the point that we all want to know whether a particular book hits the spot or not.

>153 jolerie: It is interesting indeed, the scale of reactions. Moon Tiger is a case in point with the whole gamut from rapture to approbation.

>154 BekkaJo: Which February, Bekka? hahaha

Jan 20, 2015, 6:40pm Top

I finished reading Photograph by Penelope Lively last night. This is my third book by Lively this month and since it is the last one of hers that I have on my shelves, it will be my last. This is a book about memory and history and the impact of them on the lives of people involved. Exploring memory and personal history is a theme with this author and this title continues this exploration. The author tells the story of an adulterous affair through the many different eyes and lives of the people involved. It starts with the cuckolded husband finding an envelope with a photograph in it marked "destroy." The photograph shows the lovers innocuously holding hands while at a group picnic. This discovery, long after the wife has died, leads the husband to start asking questions because his honor has been offended. In the course of the rest of the novel his single-minded pursuit of answers leads to alterations in many lives. It also questions the truth of memory or the memory of truth? It is a book that will provide fodder for many a book discussion group far into the future but not necessarily provide reading enjoyment for the reader as did Moon Tiger.

I did not like this book as much as I did Moon Tiger. It was definitely not as atmospheric and much less sympathetic to the lead characters than was Moon Tiger. Since I read three books by this author this title lands square in the middle in the rating of the three titles. I rank them in this order. 1. Moon Tiger 2. Photograph 3. Consequences

Jan 20, 2015, 9:46pm Top

I'm hearing such good things about Lively, I'm going to have to try another of her novels this year. Consequences wasn't my kind of read with all the time-skipping but she really did hook me with her writing at the beginning.

I'm hoping to get Remains of the Day from the library in the next day or so- had to request it from another library. I'm getting antsy to get going on it!

Jan 20, 2015, 10:55pm Top

Just finished When We Were Orphans. So good to read Ishiguro again. Thanks, Paul!

Jan 21, 2015, 2:39am Top

#156 Meanie ;) I may have been known to read over long periods of time...

Jan 21, 2015, 10:28am Top

>160 BekkaJo: Take your time, Bekka, take your time.

Jan 22, 2015, 12:37pm Top

I will probably also finish Unconsoled in Febuary. (Since I haven't started it yet.)

Jan 22, 2015, 12:40pm Top

#162 I'll be interested to see what you think - I can't decide if I like or loathe it...

Jan 22, 2015, 3:58pm Top

I finished When We Were Orphans by Ishiguro yesterday. Not my favorite book of his which is still Never Let Me Go, but an interesting character study of Christopher Banks set in Shanghai and London in the time leading up to WWII and including the Sino-Japanese War.

Jan 22, 2015, 9:47pm Top

I finished the audio of Nocturnes yesterday. It seems like those of us who listened to it liked it a bit better than those who read it. It's also interesting to see which stories we each liked best. My favorite, "Come Rain or Come Shine", was one that several others didn't like.

Jan 23, 2015, 7:29am Top

not sure if I've already posted that I finished Moon Tiger last week. While I appreciated Lively's writing the story aspect never warmed up for me.

Jan 23, 2015, 9:26am Top

>154 BekkaJo: I just wrote of the same problem on my thread. The Unconsoled is not a quick read by any means, requiring very close reading. It is a lot more like Murakami than I expected, or maybe Kafka.

I've asked Jim (magicians_nephew) if he would read it with me, so we could discuss. Is there a separate thread for this book? Should we start one? I'd love to discuss along the way.

Jan 23, 2015, 11:03am Top

#167 I like the idea of another thread re The Unconsoled - or we could just hi-jack this one after everyone moves on to Feb and we're left ploughing through it... or I am anyway - nearly half way though!

I think I agree to Kafka - I think I sort of like the Ishiguro style with a bit of Murakami and I loather the Kafka-ness.

Jan 23, 2015, 2:11pm Top

Well, I just started The Unconsoled and I was thinking it reminded me of something German or Eastern European. Milan Kundera, maybe. So I can see the Kafka. I am liking it so far.

Jan 23, 2015, 9:27pm Top

I finished The Remains of the Day this evening; my (very) short thoughts:

Ooof, what a beautiful but quietly devastating read. Heart-breaking and lovely. Sad and wonderful. I want to give Stevens a big hug and I want to cry because I know he'd be horrified if I did. And Miss Kenton... I'd love to commiserate with her over a nice cuppa. I love these characters with a familiarity I'm a little embarrassed about, to be honest. And that makes me very much appreciate Ishiguro's talents. In short, I loved it.

Edited: Jan 24, 2015, 8:30am Top

>169 banjo123:. The Unconsoled triggered some deep seated fury in me yesterday. Obligation, willful abandonment - I swear I wanted to throw the book under the nearest bus. But I didn't. Time will tell if I go back to it.

A reviewer described this book as comic. Is it just me? Comments?

Jan 24, 2015, 10:00am Top

Forgot to report in here, but I finished and loved Moon Tiger - this is the only Lively I have read, so it was great that it worked for me. I have Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro waiting patiently - hoping to get to it this month. SO far I have just read the first few pages.

Jan 24, 2015, 10:48am Top

I've finished The Remains of the Day, a 5-star read for me. What lovely writing and such a heartbreaking story of 'what could have been'. I thought Ishiguro's roundabout way of revealing Stevens' backstory bit by bit was a masterstroke; it kept me reading and reading between the lines of what Stevens told us in his super-restrained narrative.

Now that I've finished it I went back and read over the reactions of others in this thread, and I see that Ellen (>152 EBT1002:) saw the same connection to "Downton Abbey" that I did. Of course Ishiguro's writing is so much deeper and more nuanced than a TV show could ever hope to be, but it's not surprising that I enjoyed both.

Jan 24, 2015, 12:02pm Top

#171 Not just you... I so far fail to see the humour. Or any real sense.

Jan 24, 2015, 4:08pm Top

What a way to wrap up the BAC Challenge for January. I just finished The Remains of the Day and gave it 4.5*. You would think the life and times of a butler to be a dull read, but Mr. Stevens is so endearing and just funny. A book worthy of the Booker prize.
My review can be found here.

Onto February we go! :)

Jan 24, 2015, 4:48pm Top

Thanks to all who reviewed Moon Tiger. I was sufficiently intrigued to read a second Lively this month, and really enjoyed it.

Jan 24, 2015, 5:12pm Top

I just finished Moon Tiger with mixed reactions. Lively's language and descriptions are so vivid that I felt transported. But I found the main character so unlikeable that it was hard for me to understand the apparent love and loyalty of those around her. I had previously read How It All Began and enjoyed it much more.

Jan 25, 2015, 2:34am Top

Just finished and reviewed Moon Tiger. I had previously read How it All Began and Family Album , and I loved those two much more, but I had wanted to read Moon Tiger, so thanks for the challenge!

Jan 25, 2015, 3:08am Top

I've booked tickets to hear Kazuo Ishiguro talk about his new book in March, which I'm really looking forward to. I'll be reading The Remains of the Day next week.

Jan 25, 2015, 10:38am Top

I guess I'm on the opposite side of the fence and find Claudia from Moon Tiger amusing and a bit sad. She so obviously has no clue how to relate to people. I'd say she has some form of Asperger's or other type of disorder that presents as lack of empathy and social skills.

But then I'm only 30 pages in. I may change my mind.

Jan 26, 2015, 8:12am Top

I read The Ghost of Thomas Kempe last week. I enjoyed the writing a good deal, and it made me want to read more of Lively's work. I was a bit disappointed in the ending, which I thought was a bit of a fizzle. Still, I would recommend it to readers who like well-done "juvenile" fiction.

Jan 26, 2015, 12:38pm Top

I just realized that I forgot to post here that I finished An Artist of the Floating World the other day. Fans of The Remains of the Day should love it: it's very similar, but still a unique work.

Jan 26, 2015, 8:44pm Top

Well as a sort of trainee statistician I will go and round up as much information as I can on what we have all read this month. Just a guess at the moment but I reckon that Moon Tiger probably has most reads as well as most polarising impact.

Jan 26, 2015, 8:54pm Top

I finished Never Let Me Go today and was not impressed. I thought the characters dull and I couldn't muster up even a little bit of sympathy for their fate. I also hated the narrator's habit of saying "I'll tell you about X later", especially since I had lost interest in whatever it was by the time the explanation came a few pages later.

Jan 27, 2015, 9:48am Top

I read The Remains of the Day earlier this month and like many others here I loved the book and found it emotionally touching. I finally was able to get a copy of a Penelope Lively book at my local library and so I will be starting The Photograph with the hope of finishing it before the end of the month.

Jan 27, 2015, 10:45am Top

Just finished The Photograph last night. I liked the character study nature of the book, plus the buildup to the ending was nicely done. I'm not sure I'd call this a 5-star read, but well done.

Jan 27, 2015, 11:09am Top

If you read Moon Tiger, or are considering it, and haven't visited Darryl's thread recently, there's been *ahem* lively discussion of it over there that you really shouldn't miss.

Jan 27, 2015, 12:49pm Top

I read The Ghost of Thomas Kempe earlier this month. It reminded me of other children's books by E. Nesbitt and Edward Eager and Enid Blyton--although written in the 70s it had the feel of a 1960's England. As I'm a big fan of English children's fantasy, I enjoyed it as a nostalgic little tale. I finished Never Let Me Go last night. Wow! Just wow.

Jan 27, 2015, 1:02pm Top

I read two of Penelope Lively's works this month: A Stitch in Time and In Search of a Homeland. Both are children's works - I'm afraid I wasn't feeling very ambitous....

Jan 27, 2015, 4:01pm Top

I started Never Let Me Go a few days ago and should finish it this week although so far it's not grabbing me the way The Remains of the Day and Artist of a Floating World did. I'm so glad that people are enjoying The Remains of the Day. If I had to pick one favorite book, that would be it. I loved Amber's description of it as a "quietly, devastating read."

I owned a book of Lively's some time ago and gave it away after trying it but not being able to get into it. I now can't remember which one it was. I thought I wouldn't want to read any of her books but this thread has changed my mind and I've added a number of her books to my library list. I doubt I'll get to any this month but I will be giving her another try because of all the praise for her books.

Paul, thank you so much setting up this challenge. I must say this thread has been a fascinating read in and of itself.

Jan 27, 2015, 4:17pm Top

I've finished The Remains of the Day and loved it. 5 Stars! These comments from other readers stood out for me, so I wanted to capture them together here, since they all summed up the story so beautifully.

ipsoivan (@89): "...what amazes me is the way that Stevens' character emerges because of what he withholds. Beautifully done."

streamsong (139): "I loved the wonderful subtle ending and it will be high on my personal favorites list."

scaifea (170): "...what a beautiful but quietly devastating read. Heart-breaking and lovely. Sad and wonderful."

rosalita (173): "What lovely writing and such a heartbreaking story of 'what could have been'. I thought Ishiguro's roundabout way of revealing Stevens' backstory bit by bit was a masterstroke; it kept me reading and reading between the lines of what Stevens told us in his super-restrained narrative."

EBT1002 (@152): "This is a beautifully written wry portrait of an aging butler, a man who has carried himself through his professional life with an unflagging dedication to the dignity of the office, and who has paid the emotional price. Ishiguro's sense of irony is pitch-perfect and elegantly wrought. Mr. Stevens and Miss Kenton are richly developed characters, created wholly through Mr. Stevens' imperfect and constrained memory of events and conversations. I found myself chuckling with delight at his deadpan delivery while also feeling tremendous sadness at the emotional cost of his choices."

Jan 27, 2015, 5:09pm Top

>191 countrylife: Those are excellent comments on the book. Thank you for collecting them.

Jan 27, 2015, 5:47pm Top

>187 laytonwoman3rd: The comments on Darryl's thread are making me want to read Moon Tiger again. I have actually read it twice already, and I would certainly put it at the top of the list of the Penelope Lively books that I have read, and I have read quite a few. I was surprised that I didn't even remember some of the more controversial aspects of the book that people disliked so much, which tends to suggest that they didn't have the same impact on me I suppose.

Jan 27, 2015, 5:55pm Top

I finished The Remains of the Day and enjoyed the audio very much.

Jan 27, 2015, 6:14pm Top

>193 SandDune: I just finished Moon Tiger and liked it very much. I took Claudia to be a) a product of her times and culture (even while rebelling against it) and b) to have Asperger's or some other issues with social interaction/empathy. I didn't have too much of a problem with the incest because there was no power imbalance and they grew out of it. Teenage hormones are a powerful thing.

Jan 28, 2015, 11:30am Top

>187 laytonwoman3rd: Thanks for the reference. It is very interesting to see such strong reactions pro and con to this book.

Edited: Jan 28, 2015, 11:38am Top

>195 Morphidae: I entirely agree. I'm not sure about an Asberger's diagnosis, rather than a woman more interested in her career and herself than anything else. Maybe narcisistic, or maybe that's what we call women who don't match our view of the value of motherhood and a woman's role.

It is unfortunately very common to judge women based on their family attachments rather than their careers. Is Angela Merkel a bad mother? or a mother at all? Is Hillary Clinton out of line because she is focusing on her career?

I speak from the perspective of having no children, having a 40 year career I am very involved with. And I confess I'm not very good at social relationships either. Maybe I identify with Claudia, although I am not as forthright or - dare I say it - nasty. Sometimes I wish I could be!

Jan 28, 2015, 12:12pm Top

>197 ffortsa: People keep saying she was nasty. Can someone give me a specific example? I'm not talking about thoughts in her head. We all have nasty thoughts. I'm talking about something she did to another person that didn't relate to a difference in culture.

Jan 28, 2015, 1:53pm Top

>198 Morphidae: I think that's part of the problem. We are seeing the world through Claudia's eyes, through her history, and through her opinions. I don't really think she was actively nasty. It's just that she is expressing very strong opinions. Most of the problem seems to be her disappointment with her daughter, for being such an ordinary person. I suspect she would have been happy to know about the affair!

Jan 28, 2015, 2:29pm Top

I finished Dancing Fish and Ammonites last night. It meandered quite a bit, but I think that's what I liked most about it.

Jan 28, 2015, 5:05pm Top

DISCLAIMER: Because you can't see my face or hear my tone I need to say that I'm not trying to be confrontational. These are honest questions.

>199 ffortsa: Oh man. I love my husband dearly and we've been married happily for almost 25 years. But if he knew about some of the unpleasant things I've thought about him but would never ever say or act upon, we'd be divorced so fast it would make my head spin. Does that make me nasty?

I think how people respond to that question will relate to how they feel about Claudia. To me, it's not about what you think, it's about what you do.

Another example, I've thought about smashing someone's face in but I'd never actually do it. Does that make me violent?

Edited: Jan 28, 2015, 9:11pm Top

Just finished How It All Began. I found it mildly entertaining but I won't be rushing out to buy a copy for my personal library.

Edited: Jan 28, 2015, 10:16pm Top

I just loved How It All Began and Family Album a couple of years ago and loved them but MoonTiger was a big of a slog. :) Glad I read it though! I decided that Claudia of Moon Tiger was a narcissist .

Edited: Jan 28, 2015, 10:43pm Top

One of the things that I loved about Moon Tiger is that we got to see the uncensored "real" Claudia. I'm one of the nicest people you could meet (really! ask anyone!) but it's human to experience (i.e., to feel) anger, jealousy, contempt, disappointment.... even toward those whom we love with all our hearts. I loved how viscerally true the character rang.
I didn't need to diagnose her. I simply saw her as a dying woman who, in this narrative, exposed herself in all her humanness.

Jan 28, 2015, 11:24pm Top

>204 EBT1002: you said what i was going to say in response to >201 Morphidae:. We all think blunt, aggressive, and even totally over the top thoughts now and then. What we are is determined by how we behave, and even how we recognize the tenor of those unexpressed thoughts. Much better, and more and adult, I think, to hear our own thoughts and understand when to express them, than to be deaf to our impulses and act them out without tempering!

As you said, we have the unmediated interior Claudia, and even the occasional rebuttal.

Jan 29, 2015, 5:34pm Top

Thanks to a snow (well, ice) day, I finished The Remains of the Day this afternoon. My thoughts seem to match with many others. It took me a bit to get into it, because of the ongoing flow-of-though narrative, but in the end, that was what won me over to the book. Figuring out what exactly had happened through Stevens round-about narrative what was what made the book.

Edited: Jan 30, 2015, 1:17pm Top

I've finished Family Album, my last Lively for the month. I have one more Ishiguro left from the library, which I'll probably finish today, and then it's on to Waters and Waugh.

Jan 31, 2015, 8:08am Top

I read A Pale View of Hills and Moon Tiger this month. Really enjoyed the former, Moon Tiger didn't make that much of an impact on me either way.

Edited: Jan 31, 2015, 10:00am Top

I neglected to post here that I'd finished Family Album and I am glad I forced myself to finish it. This is what I had to say:

I struggled to finish this book before January turned to February. I read it as a part of the British Authors Challenge, and I am glad I did! It is not a book which grabbed me and would not let go; somedays it was all I could do to read a couple of pages. In the end, about 2/3 of the way through, I finally began to appreciate the family, and the characters, and could see glimpses of what Ms. Lively was getting after. She thinks a lot about "memory"; and seeing the same stuff from all these different points of view.

I liked it that she even occasionally gave the family house a point of view and in the end I loved the house the most of all.

Edited: Jan 31, 2015, 4:27pm Top

I finished When We were Orphans last night and have decided that it is my favorite Ishiguro.

Jan 31, 2015, 2:23pm Top

I am actually liking The Unconsoled; but will have to finish it in February. I accidentally left it at work.

Jan 31, 2015, 2:46pm Top

So far I am keeping up with this challenge. I read The Remains of the Day and Family Album this month. Both were enjoyable reads. I am looking forward to watching the film adaptation of "Remains" which I understand is an outstanding movie.

Edited: Jan 31, 2015, 4:33pm Top

I found Nocturnes this morning in the stack of library books my mother picked up for me the other day so I read it instead of doing housework like I had planned...I think I made the right choice.

Jan 31, 2015, 5:36pm Top

I found this thread yesterday and decided to start reading Never Let Me Go as it had been on my list for a while. I'm almost a third of the way through the book and I must say that I really, really like it. I've not read anything by Ishiguro yet, but I will definitely be reading more of his books!

Jan 31, 2015, 9:06pm Top

I finished An Artist of the Floating World and as always with Ishiguro it was a quiet story that seems pretty simple and straightforward but has left me loads to think about.

I didn't get to Moon Tiger by Lively this month but I'm keen to read it and will catch up on it later in the year.

Feb 1, 2015, 5:49am Top

I also finished Moon Tiger by Lively and really enjoyed the interesting discussions going on around the book. I thought this was a great book and I definitely will try some more of her work.

Feb 2, 2015, 10:20am Top

Failed to finish The Unconsoled by month-end, not surprising since I put it down pretty early on. I am curious about the title, however, so I'll get back to it eventually.

Feb 2, 2015, 1:09pm Top

I finished An Artist of the Floating World on Saturday night at 12:20, which made it my first completed book of February. I'm really glad the BAC gave me an added incentive to pick up another books by Ishiguro, which might otherwise have taken me a while to do, simply because of the "so many books so little time syndrome—though I'm a big fan of Remains of the Day—because I really loved this novel, and like Lisa (>215 kiwiflowa:), it left me with plenty to think about.

Feb 2, 2015, 4:47pm Top

I finished both Moon Tiger (loved it) and An Artist of the Floating World (didn't quite love it, but glad I read it). I think this challenge is really going to be fun!

Karen O.

Feb 2, 2015, 11:52pm Top

Thank you for everyone making the first ever BAC Challenge month a busy and enjoyable one. Don't stop reading the two of them because January has expired!

Feb 4, 2015, 10:06am Top

>220 PaulCranswick: I can definitely see more of both of these authors in my future, Paul. Thank you for introducing me to Ms. Lively; I enjoyed How It All Began a great deal.

Edited: Feb 4, 2015, 11:17am Top

Woop - finally finished The Unconsoled. I don't really recommend it, despite having enjoyed every other Ishiguro I've read. It is somewhat of a different beast!

(review on my thread)

Feb 16, 2015, 1:24pm Top

I finished The Unconsoled today. It is strange, but I liked it. Ishiguro is definitely a writer who is driven by ideas.

Mar 1, 2015, 3:05pm Top

Ishiguro fans might be interested in the NYT review of his new book, by Neil Gaiman. The review is here

Mar 1, 2015, 6:30pm Top

I saw that review while I was whiling away my minutes this morning, on shift. I was sitting in the Costco parking lot for over an hour before I received my first delivery order and read that review. Very interesting. I can't say I'm putting it on my wish list but I will keep my eyes open to see if any LTers are reading it.

Mar 5, 2015, 9:57pm Top

Woo Hoo! The embargo is finally lifted! My review of The Buried Giant was published in The BIG Issue today. I have attached a copy to my blog at: http://bookblog76.com/2015/03/06/the-buried-giant-kazuo-ishiguro/

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2015

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